On Tuesday, January 25th, in Medford, Oregon, tucked into the hills of the Southern Cascade mountains, 28 people came together to discuss a radical concept: a bank that works to pool the resources of the community rather than to extract it and send it to Wall Street investors. Their interest was piqued by the two proposals currently in the Oregon State Legislature to create a state bank, modeled after the Bank of North Dakota, that would be owned and operated by the people of Oregon.
The forum was hosted by Alliance for a Just Society affiliate Oregon Action and held, fittingly, at the Medford Public Library. A four person panel introduced members of Oregon Action and the general public to the broad concept of how a state bank would work, as well as what it would take for the proposals to clear legislative hurdles. The panel consisted of Dan Lombardi, small business organizer for Oregon Action; Jeff Golden Former Jackson County Commissioner; Nancie Koerber, Oregon Action member; and Steve Hughes, Director of the Oregon Working Families Party.
The people in the room felt a deep connection to the North Dakota farmers of the Non-Partisan League who organized and held similar meetings across their state 90 years ago. At the close of the meeting, longtime Oregon Action member Ivend Holen showed the movie Northern Lights, which tells the story of the harsh conditions that led to the formation of the Non-Partisan League and the populist movement that swept across the prairie during the early 20th century. The conditions today, including the tightest credit crunch in recent memory, are eerily similar to those that spurred the creation of the Non-Partisan League and a host of populist changes that ultimately led to the creation of the only state-owned bank in the country.